Terry Teachout

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Terry Teachout (born 6 February 1956, Cape Girardeau, Missouri) is a critic,[1] biographer,[2] librettist,[3] playwright,[4] and blogger. He is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, the chief culture critic of Commentary, and the author of "Sightings," a column about the arts in America that appears biweekly in the Friday Wall Street Journal. He blogs at About Last Night and has written about the arts for many other magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times and National Review.

Life and writings

Teachout grew up in Sikeston, Missouri. He attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland; William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lived in Kansas City from 1975 to 1983, working as a jazz bassist and writing about classical music and jazz for the Kansas City Star. He moved to New York City in 1985, working as an editor at Harper's Magazine (1985–87) and an editorial writer for the New York Daily News (1987–93) and as the News' classical music and dance critic (1993–2000). In 2004 he was appointed by President Bush to the National Council on the Arts, the advisory and review panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, completing his term in 2010.[5] In 2005 he was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, but subsequently recovered. A political conservative with wide-ranging cultural interests and sympathies, he maintains cordial relationships with artists, critics, and bloggers from all parts of the political spectrum.

Teachout's first play, Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man-two-character play about Louis Armstrong and Joe Glaser, his manager, was premiered at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre's Mandell Theatre in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 15, 2011. In addition to Armstrong and Glaser, Miles Davis is also portrayed by the same actor in two brief scenes. An extensively revised version of Satchmo at the Waldorf was produced by Shakespeare & Company of Lenox, Mass., in August 2012, with John Douglas Thompson playing Armstrong, Glaser, and Davis. The production, which transferred to Long Wharf Theatre of New Haven, Conn., in October 2012, and to Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater in November 2012, was directed by Gordon Edelstein. The Boston Globe described the play as a "tour de force…Aided by director Gordon Edelstein and the consummately skilled Thompson as interpreter, Teachout—in his debut as dramatist rather than drama critic—has contributed a work of insight and power." [6] According to the New York Times, "Reviewing a play is one thing; writing a play is quite another. Terry Teachout, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, makes this hat-switching look far easier than it is with his first play…Mr. Teachout has done a fine job of building a fiction-plus-fact theater piece." [7]

Teachout recently finished writing Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, which will be published by Gotham Books in the fall of 2013, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2012 to support its completion.[8] Parts of Duke and Satchmo at the Waldorf were written at the MacDowell Colony in the summer of 2012.

His last book was Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; JR Books Ltd in the UK, Larousse in Brazil, United Press/Alpina in Russia). "With Pops, his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists," Michiko Kakutani wrote in her New York Times review of Pops.[9] The Washington Post chose Pops as one of the ten best books of 2009,[10] The Economist chose it as one of the best books of the year,[11] and the New York Times Book Review chose it as one of the "100 notable books" of 2010.[12]

Teachout also wrote the libretti for The Letter, an opera by Paul Moravec based on the 1927 play by W. Somerset Maugham that was premiered on July 25, 2009, by the Santa Fe Opera, and Danse Russe, a one-act backstage comedy by Moravec about the making of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring that was premiered by Philadelphia's Center City Opera Theater on April 28, 2011. They are now at work on on The King's Man, a one-act companion piece to Danse Russe that will be premiered by Louisville's Kentucky Opera in the fall of 2013.

Teachout's other books include All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine (2004, Harcourt), A Terry Teachout Reader (2004, Yale University Press), The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken (2002, HarperCollins), and City Limits: Memories of a Small-Town Boy (1991, Poseidon Press). He is the editor of Beyond the Boom: New Voices on American Life, Culture, and Politics (1990, Poseidon Press, introduction by Tom Wolfe) and Ghosts on the Roof: Selected Journalism of Whittaker Chambers, 1931-1959 (1989, Regnery Gateway). In 1992 he rediscovered the manuscript of A Second Mencken Chrestomathy among H.L. Mencken's private papers and edited it for publication by Alfred A. Knopf (1995).[13]

He wrote the forewords to Paul Taylor's Private Domain: An Autobiography (1999, University of Pittsburgh Press), Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado (2007, New York Review Books Classics), William Bailey's William Bailey on Canvas (2007, Betty Cuningham Gallery), and Richard Stark's Flashfire and Firebreak (2011, University of Chicago Press) and contributed to The Oxford Companion to Jazz (2000, Oxford University Press), Field-Tested Books (2008, Coudal Partners), and Robert Gottlieb's Reading Dance (2008, Pantheon). He also appears in two film documentaries about dance, Mirra Bank's Last Dance (2002) and Deborah Novak's Steven Caras: See Them Dance (2011).

Teachout contributed notes on recordings by Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa and Oscar Peterson to Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology (2011) and has written liner notes for CDs by jazz musicians Karrin Allyson, Gene Bertoncini, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Julia Dollison, Jim Ferguson, Roger Kellaway, Diana Krall, Joe Mooney, Marian McPartland, Mike Metheny, Maria Schneider, Kendra Shank and Luciana Souza, the pop-jazz Lascivious Biddies, the bluegrass band Nickel Creek, and the classical ensembles Chanticleer and the Trio Solisti.


  1. ^ Stetson, Nancy (January 7, 2009). "America's drama critic: Terry Teachout". Florida Weekly. http://fortmyers.floridaweekly.com/news/2009-01-07/arts_ent/067.html. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  2. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (November 23, 2009). "The Voice That Helped Remake Culture". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/books/24book.html?_r=0. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  3. ^ Teachout, Terry (July 19, 2009). "A drama critic's turn to face the music". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-ca-teachout19-2009jul19,0,3306873.story=auto. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  4. ^ Gates, Anita (October 14, 2012). "Behind the Grin, an Angry Satchmo: A Discussion With Terry Teachout, the Writer of "Satchmo at the Waldorf"". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/nyregion/a-discussion-with-terry-teachout-the-writer-of-satchmo-at-the-waldorf.html?smid=tw-nytimesTheater&seid=auto. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  5. ^ "The National Council on the Arts: Three New Members are Welcomed". NEA ARTS. March/April 2005. http://www.nea.gov/about/nearts/story.php?id=p07_nca&issue=2005_v2. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  6. ^ MacDonald, Sandy (August 28, 2012). "A deep, impassioned bio-play about a jazz legend". Boston Globe. http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2012/08/27/satchmo-tina-packer-playhouse-shakespeare-company/fThwfdYdaBVHdxQPAeGgqO/story.html. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  7. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (October 17, 2012). "A Night With a Jazz Legend in His Mostly Wonderful World: "Satchmo at the Waldorf," at Long Wharf Theater in New Haven". New York Times. http://theater.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/theater/reviews/satchmo-at-the-waldorf-at-long-wharf-theater-in-new-haven.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1350511096-YBnPQr+9sMRWQm6wtW38sw&gwh=7000DD44807D98CFB13AA5F38764930C. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Terry Teachout". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2012. http://www.gf.org/fellows/17318-terry-teachout. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  9. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (November 23, 2009). "The Voice That Helped Remake Culture". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/books/24book.html?_r=0. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Book World Picks Its 10 Best Books of the Year". Washington Post. December 13, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/10/AR2009121003656.html. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  11. ^ "Books of the Year: Page-turners". The Economist. December 3, 2009. http://www.economist.com/node/15009715. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  12. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2010". New York Times Book Review. November 24, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/books/review/100-notable-books-2010.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  13. ^ "Terry Teachout". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2012. http://www.gf.org/fellows/17318-terry-teachout. Retrieved 11 November 2012.

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